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Elias v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 25, 2016

Margaret Lorraine Elias, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

LESLIE A. BOWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

The plaintiff filed this action for review of the final decision of the Commissioner for Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc. 1)

The Magistrate Judge presides over this action pursuant to the 28 U.S.C. 636(c). (Doc. 11)

The Commissioner concedes the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denying benefits must be reversed. The action will be remanded for further administrative proceedings.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 7, 2006, Elias applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (Tr. 88, 91). She alleged disability beginning on October 15, 2005, due to fibromyalgia, depression, back problems, high blood pressure, and “prone to illness.” (Tr. 107) Her claim was denied initially (Tr. 54-57) and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 60-66) Elias requested review and appeared with counsel at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Lauren R. Mathon on September 6, 2007. (Tr. 11-18) In her decision, dated November 28, 2007, the ALJ found Elias was not disabled from the alleged onset date, October 15, 2005, until the date of the decision. Id. Elias appealed, but the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 1-3)

Elias filed an action in this court appealing the Commissioner’s final decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a). The Commissioner’s final decision was reversed, and the case was remanded for further administrative proceedings. CV-10-244-TUC-CKJ (GEE), (Doc. 25)

Elias supplemented the medical record and appeared with counsel at a second hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Lauren R. Mathon on July 16, 2012. (Tr. 530) In her decision, dated August 9, 2012, the ALJ again found Elias was not disabled from the alleged onset date, October 15, 2005, until the date of the decision. (Tr. 511-521) Elias appealed, but the Appeals Council denied review making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 493-496); See Bass v. Social Sec. Admin., 872 F.2d 832, 833 (9th Cir. 1989).

Elias subsequently filed this action appealing the Commissioner’s final decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a). She argues, among other things, that the ALJ failed to properly credit the opinion of the treating physician R.L. Goedecke, D.O. (Doc. 14)

The Commissioner filed an answering brief on April 8, 2015. (Doc. 18) She concedes the ALJ’s decision must be reversed and argues the case should be remanded for further administrative proceedings. Id. Elias filed a reply on April 27, 2015. (Doc. 19) She argues the action should be remanded for an award of benefits. Id.

Claimant’s Work History and Medical History

At the time of the second hearing, Elias was 55 years old and a high school graduate. (Tr. 532-534).

She previously worked full-time as a registration and attendance clerk. (Tr. 536) She briefly worked selling Avon products and doing odd jobs for an elderly couple. (Tr. 537)

The medical record begins in 2002 with a prescription record for Levoxyl, which is used to treat hypothyroidism, and Cartia, which is used to treat hypertension. (Tr. 395-96, 461)

In 2003, Elias was diagnosed with breast cancer and was treated with a modified radical mastectomy. (Tr. 222, 264) After surgery, she was prescribed Tamoxifen and then Aromasin. (Tr. 298, 301, 303). Aromasin is an aromatase inactivator that “decreases the availability of estrogen needed to maintain tumor growth.” The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Seventeenth Ed., p. 1982 (1999); http://www.pdr.net/drug-summary/Aromasin-exemestane-475 #16. Her subsequent x-rays and mammograms were negative for any cancer recurrence. (Tr. 298, 300, 422, 424)

X-rays taken in January of 2005 indicate mild hypertrophic spondylosis of the dorsal spine. (Tr. 425)

In May of 2006, Elias’ treating physician, R.L. Goedecke, D.O., prescribed Zoloft for depression, which Elias attributed to her cancer medication. (Tr. 401) In June of 2006, Elias reported mental cloudiness, forgetfulness, memory loss, neck and shoulder pain, right hand pain, and pain down the back of her legs. (Tr. 401) She expressed a desire to be tested for fibromyalgia. (Tr. 401) In September of 2006, Goedecke noted Elias had a positive test for ANA (antinuclear antibody) indicating a possible autoimmune reaction. (Tr. 398)

Earlier, in July of 2006, Elias sought treatment for depression at COPE Behavioral Services, Inc. (Tr. 355-58) She was prescribed Zoloft by ...


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